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Kings Cross and Saint Pancras

Railway stations are the true gateways to the modern city. Opened by the Great Northern Railway in 1850, Kings Cross Station lies at the centre of a huge, exciting redevelopment.

Railway stations are the true gateways to the modern city. Opened by the Great Northern Railway in 1850, Kings Cross Station lies at the centre of a huge, exciting redevelopment. With the arrival of the channel tunnel terminus at St Pancras International in 2007 and the eventual completion of Crossrail in 2019, there has been an upsurge in interest in commercial, residential and institutional redevelopment around the two grand old stations.

So, why visit? Gone are less salubrious attractions of cheap hotels, drugs and prostitution. In their place are the aforementioned interests, keen to attract travellers and fellow Londoners looking for somewhere to work, relax, eat, drink and shop in what is rapidly becoming an exciting cultural quarter. Developers have made a conscious effort to create a series of pedestrian precincts, courtyards and tree-lined streets offering a welcome alternative to the congested and depressing streets which once marked this area.

Throughout the warmer months and holidays a series of markets, festivals, street theatres and traders of all sorts inhabit the areas around and behind the old buildings. A change in direction exemplified by the replacement of the old unsightly ticket hall in front of Kings Cross with a much needed piazza and marketplace. Suddenly, this area’s proximity to places like the British Museum, British Library, London University, Kings Place Cultural Centre and excellent transport links make this an interesting place from which to explore a new sort of London.

The two Victorian stations have been returned to their contrasting splendours. Where St Pancras and its hotel once again serve to celebrate Victorian Gothic at its best, Kings Cross proclaims a utilitarian simplicity no longer hidden behind later additions. Although one could argue that the first looked to an imagined past, and the second to an imagined future, visitors to London can celebrate designers who found qualities in each by breathing new life into this end of the Euston Road.

Behind both stations was once a hinterland of canals, marshalling yards, gas stores, workshops and stores largely hidden from view; the harsh reality of Victorian industry behind the grandeur. What remains of this past are a few select older buildings restored and converted to a variety of new uses. Of particular interest are The Granary, once a baker’s flower store, now home to Central Saint Martins College of Art and interesting and innovative eateries; while in front is a fun waterfall feature coming up out of the pavement, with multicoloured lights, irresistible to young children and playful adults, cooling off in the summer heat. Tying it all together is the famous Regents Canal, once a busy highway for Britain’s industrial heritage, now, like so much of this regenerated area, a sterling example of London’s new style.

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